Legal professionals in (pet) love

For all the pluses about working in Big Law – good money, prestige, smart colleagues – historically there’s also been a major downside, at least in my mind: Not conducive to dog ownership.

Until now.

Freed from long days (and nights and weekends) toiling away in the office, lawyers and law firm professionals now working from home have leapt at the chance to get pandemic pups.

Does the four-legged fun have to end when everyone goes back to the office? (Cue sad puppy eyes). Or is there a firm that might follow the lead of select tech giants and allow furry friends at work?

Because here’s the thing (I’m exercising my prerogative as a columnist and dog owner to reveal clear bias): Dogs make everything better.

Lauren Jacobs, for example, got Ellie, her English bulldog, after graduating from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law last May, when the delayed California Bar exam (bumped from July to September and then October), made her realize she had time for a puppy.

Ellie has “helped tremendously with the isolation that can come with working remotely,” said Jacobs, now an appellate fellow at 300-lawyer Buchalter. “I wake up early to take her to go to the bathroom, we go on walks during my breaks, and we play ball or bubbles in the backyard in the evening.”

Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner partner Anthony Tridico also took advantage of being homebound to add a second dog, a German shorthaired pointer puppy named Watson, to his family.

“It was the perfect time. I usually travel a lot,” said Tridico, who started at Finnegan in Washington, D.C., in 2001 and is now managing partner of the London office.

Tridico and the dogs start the morning with a walk, and during the day, the pup is apt to “lay down on the floor near my desk or get a ball and drop it at my feet,” he said.

Likewise, Alexandra Gordon, a fifth-year litigation associate at an elite, 1,000-lawyer New York firm recently adopted a Scottish terrier puppy named Violet.

Gordon’s job is demanding, but “it’s helpful to take a minute and cuddle a puppy or play tug-of-war” to liven up her days and relieve stress, she said.

Are you seeing a theme?

Tridico put it simply: “Dogs relax people.” And goodness knows, lawyers need relaxing.

This week, the legal profession is marking the second annual “Well-Being Week in Law.”

The initiative has its roots in a 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs. The study found that 1 in 3 practicing lawyers is a problem drinker, 28% of attorneys struggle with some level of depression and 19% demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.

Per the study, these numbers are significantly higher for lawyers than doctors or other professionals.

Lawyers are not doing well.

So here’s a thought as law offices open back up – a move that now seems more imminent after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are lifting almost all pandemic restrictions on May 19. Also on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order immediately rescinding all remaining restrictions in his state. California continues to eye June 15 for the all-clear.

What if as law firms in the coming weeks and months start bringing people back, they let them bring their dogs too?

Not just because the dogs will be sad about being left at home alone – which they will, but let’s be honest, mostly they’ll snooze all day and wake up when they hear your car in the driveway.

No. It’s because multiple studies have shown that dogs help reduce anxiety and stress, and lawyers clearly have far too much of both.

Other businesses do it. At Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, for example, on any given (pre-pandemic) day, as many as 7,000 dogs came to work.

“Having pets in the workplace has been found to lower stress and boost morale,” Amazon’s website states. “The dog-friendly policy also contributes to the company’s culture of collaboration.”

The Amazon website quotes Lara Hirschfield, Amazon’s “Woof Pack Manager,” who said that “Dogs in the workplace is an unexpected mechanism for connection. I see Amazonians meeting each other in our lobbies or elevators every day because of their dogs.”

Google has a dog-friendly policy as well. It’s even enshrined in the company’s code of conduct, which states, “Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture.”

Dogs who go to work with their humans at Google are known as “Dooglers,” which quite frankly is awesome.

There are rules, of course. No peeing on the carpet or biting or excessive barking, and some buildings are dog-free due to allergies.

Animal advocacy group Dogs@work has found that 37% of dog owners would sacrifice vacation time or a pay raise to be able to bring their dog to work, and that 44% of dog lovers would consider a career move for a pet-friendly workplace.

Surely there’s an opening here for a law firm to make its mark as a canine-friendly workplace.

After all, if law is a dog-eat-dog profession, the firm with its own pack is bound to come out on top.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author. Reuters News, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence and freedom from bias.

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